THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday confirmed that African swine fever (ASF) has reached the Philippines, the ninth country in Asia hit by the highly infectious hog disease.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said 14 out of the 20 pig blood samples sent for a laboratory test in the United Kingdom tested positive for ASF.
The infected pigs were found in Rodriguez and Antipolo in Rizal province and Guiguinto town in Bulacan.
Dar said quarantine and monitoring protocols would remain in place to protect the country’s P260-billion hog industry.
“We have never been in an epidemic, just to highlight that. We are responding to the increased number of deaths of pigs,” Dar said.
“We continue to monitor, even beyond the 10-kilometer radius. So far, so good. No incidents,” he added.
So far, 7,416 hogs had been culled, Dar said.
The Agriculture chief stressed that the 1-7-10 protocol will remain in place to prevent the highly infectious disease from spreading.
This means all hogs under a 1-kilometer radius from the affected area will be culled, those within a 7-kilometer radius will be under surveillance, while the 10-kilometer radius will be declared food security area.
The department is waiting for the result of another test to determine the severity of the virus.
Dar said the Department of Budget provided his agency P82 million. Part of the money will be used to help hog raisers. For each culled pig, the government will pay P3,000.
“On top of that… bibigyan po natin sila ng biik para makasimula sila ulit sa raising (we will give them piglets so that they can start raising hogs again),” he added.
Dar reminded backyard hog raisers to refrain from swill feeding, or giving food scraps to pigs.
Industry groups assured the public that pork sold in the market was safe for human consumption.
To prove that pork meat is not a threat to human health, officials of the departments of Agriculture and Health, and hog stakeholders ate pork during a boodle fight.
Dar said as long as the hogs passed through the proper process of slaughtering and preparation, the public should not fear eating pork.
“Before slaughtering, a hog is validated and assessed by a veterinarian, who then issues a medical certificate. Once slaughtered, the meats are stamped with a seal from the National Meat Inspection Service, assuring that is has passed the food safety measures imposed by the government,” he explained.
The industry groups also said the country had 12 million hogs in its inventory.
Rosendo So, president of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the country had ample pork supply.
“We don’t need to import… Our only worry is if the virus will spread, which will decrease the population of hogs,” So added.
ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of domestic and wild pigs of all ages. There are no effective preventive vaccines or cure, and the mortality rate is as high as 100 percent.
The ASF virus, however, does not pose a health risk to humans, according to World Organization for Animal Health.
The disease had also infected hogs in Russia, China, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Other countries affected by the ASF include Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa and Zambia.
Malacañang on Monday assured the public that there was no cause to worry.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Agriculture department had undertaken all measures to secure public safety.
“I think there is no need to worry, considering that the DA secretary has not cautioned us to avoid or not to eat pork. I am sure the DA secretary is competent enough to handle the problem,” he added.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the ASF might lessen demand for pork, but its overall impact on inflation would be negligible.
“The demand for pork may be affected, so that would prevent the spike in prices,” Lopez said.
The Trade chief gave assurances that the country has enough supply of chicken.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said inflation might still fall below 3.2 percent despite the ASF.
“Chicken is okay. People are able to substitute chicken for pork. Inflation is not going to spike for sure,” Pernia added.
WITH CATHERINE VALENTE AND ANNA LEAH GONZALES